Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Power by Murray Leinster

Murray Leinster
First published in Astounding Science Fiction, September 1945.

One of the complaints in the article that inspired this series was the increasing influence of fantasy. Either the stories were fantasies dressed up in SF garb, or SF stories borrowing the language and structure of fantasy. I think this style of ‘historical SF’ is a variation on this approach.

There seems to be something similar going on. It’s an attempt to de-culture some of the standard SF baggage. So, an alien becomes a demon, technological vocabulary becomes words of power and technological processes become magical rituals.

More importantly, the historical variation is a chance to write about the silly past people and to remind ourselves that we’ll past people one day, too.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Wanderer of Time by John Russel Fearn

I love this cover!
First published in Startling Stories, summer 1944

This time travel story has the same basic idea as the first story in this volume, The Circle of Zero. If space-time is infinite then somewhere, our history must have repeated in the past, and it will repeat again in the future. The way of getting to these forgotten past lives is kind of similar, too. The Circle of Zero relied on hypnosis, this story relies on the memories being written into a mysterious ‘blind spot’ in the brain.

By attaching some kind of incredible invention to his head, Blake Carson is able access these memories and paradoxically remember his future. Naturally, the first thing he sees is his own death. We’re back in the land of rationalist fables.

A great video featuring Asimov, Ellison and Gene Wolfe!

I came across this brilliant video on i09. It's pretty interesting in regard to my argument about SF being dead. Much depends, of course on what we mean by science fiction. All three have interesting points to make on that topic, and there's a lot left unsaid, too.

I'd like to come back to the things said in this video a bit later, perhaps as part of my second quarter reading round-up, where I'll also be considering The History of the Science Fiction Magazine vol 2.

Plus, doesn't Isaac have a great voice!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Almost Human by Robert Bloch

First published in Fantastic Adventures, July 1943.

Robots make great subjects for thought experiments. Their na├»ve rationalism is a sharp light to shine on non-linear human doings, serving to highlight the way that humans rationalise away the contradictions of supposedly rational society. It’s no surprise that the most memorable character in I,Robot is the chilly, calculating Dr Susan Calvin.

With Almost Human, Robots make their first appearance in this series, but not in the shape of one of the famous Asimov stories was publishing at the same time this came out. I would guess, however, that these stories are sufficiently well-known to make inclusion here a bit unnecessary.

Instead get this neat little tale from Robert Bloch. It’s an interesting contrast – Bloch is a horror writer by inclination, and so this story has a far darker side.